Cowards and Wasp Nest

It was the summer of 1975 when I was diagnosed with scoliosis—and eventually fitted with a massive upper-body brace designed to allow my vertebrae to grow and my spine to return to something like normal.

I was entering ninth grade, scrawny and nerdy. Deeply insecure, introverted, and (although I wouldn’t realize this for over 20 years) nearly paralyzed with anxiety.

My parents were incredibly supportive; they rushed to provide anything they could to make the experience less traumatizing. But I was heading off to school daily in the brace, the self-consciousness of adolescence intensified exponentially.

By sheer coincidence, my refuge from this experience was comic books, which I began collecting and also drawing from while I stood at our long bar separating our kitchen and living area.

Eventually, my efforts as an artist—which progressed from tracing to drawing superhero comics to drawing in pencil realistic portraits and even recreating album covers on the walls of our dorm rooms—waned in my early 20s.

Four-plus decades later, I discovered Procreate on the iPad, having watched my partner teach herself art on the program.

If Procreate/iPad had existed when I was a teen, I believe I would have never stopped doing art, but I have jumped back in.

The feel of drawing digitally has been disorienting so I started doing some photograph-based work to learn how to use the program and adjust to the feel of the digital pencil.

My first experiment was with the only image I have of Lou LaBrant:

What I had planned to be a way to practice Procreate, however, became something I want to do as artwork, although working from my original photgraphs.

Here are two of my projects, both from original photgraphs.

First, I based “Only Cowards Ban Books” on a photograph I took at the Brooklyn Public Library. Part of my purpose here was to play with colors and since this addresses censorship, I have a great deal of space where parts of the original photograph are missing.

Also absent is that the original was taken at dark so I used color to emphasize the sporadic lights.

The second is an idea I had after see The National at Red Rocks, working from an image I took while in Colorado this July.

I continue to work in flat colors and again much of the original image is omitted.

The lyrics and central idea of “Wasp Nest” is The National’s songs “Wasp Nest” and “Day I Die.”

Wasp Nest